Now that Microsoft has announced the availability of the RC version of Service Pack 3 for our old friend, XP, I'm delighted to tell you all that not only is this upgrade substantial and extremely helpful. Believe it or not, this upgrade creates the best Windows experience I have ever used.
Now, as you may be aware, Vista is, well, crap. Sure, SP1 is on the way early next year and the hope is still there that Microsoft may be able to turn it around, but let's face it -- the chances of Vista becoming a wanted OS are dwindling by the minute.
Let's see what has gone down with Vista over the past year: Dell, HP and Acer have all asked Microsoft to extend XPs availability for an additional six months due to the concerns of customers; many businesses have been slow to adopt the new OS because of poor performance and compatibility issues; complaints have soured the release claiming Microsoft's new OS is slower, less capable and downright awful; and last but certainly not least, it's as if Microsoft can't stand Vista considering the level of detail it's releasing on its follow-up, Windows 7.
And yet, during this time, Windows XP has still been in use by millions of people around the world that have no desire to buy a new machine that's capable of handling Vista and running it daily. And while some people claim the same was true when XP was made available and people just need to come around, let us not forget that Vista has been available for almost a year and people are still upset about the way things are going.
But luckily for us, there's a savior in the works that will not only help us get out from under the sinking ship that is Vista, but will actually improve our experience using Windows. No, it's not SP1. The real upgrade to Vista is XP SP3.
In case you haven't tried it out just yet, the best way I can describe SP3 is that it's Vista without the crap. Amazingly, Microsoft has said that SP3 features about 1,073 fixes and adds some nifty features from Vista to make the experience far better.
Although XP was faster than Vista before, SP3 ups the ante. Believe it or not, witnessed speeds on XP have easily eclipsed Vista and the latter feels dreadfully slow after using SP3 for a while. Even better, SP3 doesn't offer the kind of annoyances that have become commonplace with Vista -- you know, device incompatibility, annoyances with pop-ups asking for permission, and downright poor performance.
Perhaps most important, SP3 delivers on security. SP3 adds support for FIPS 140-1 Level 1 cryptography as a DLL at the kernel level. Because of this, developers can now access the Kernel Mode Cryptographic Module and improve the security of their drivers with the help of cryptographic algorithms.
On top of that, SP3 fixes Windows' wonky black hole router detection system and allows it to reconfigure the Transmission Control Protocol to keep connections alive without losing any performance.
Sure, this may not seem like big improvements and most of the fixes included in SP3 can already be found on Vista, but isn't that the issue here? Now that XP is more secure and already supports any and all devices you're currently using without costing you hundreds of dollars to implement, couldn't it be said that XP is simply the better choice?
In the end, Vista is nothing more than a beta release of an operating system that should not have been allowed into the wild. Does it have its virtues? Of course it does. But with the release of SP3 (the final build will be available in 2008), which improves upon SP2 and includes most of those Vista virtues, why should you run to the store, upgrade your computer and buy a new operating system?
I just don't see the point.
Honestly, I must congratulate Microsoft on a job well done. Sure, it has lost its focus, gutted its new operating system just to get it out the door, buckled under the pressure of computer manufacturers who hate its new OS and created a ludicrous version scheme that does nothing but confuse people, but it has done something right: it has created a stellar upgrade to Windows Vista.
Save your money -- install SP3 and forget about Vista.